by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
Carpool lane cheating has become a serious problem up in the Bay Area and such an epidemic is likely in other areas of the state. That's despite the fact that a carpool violation ticket is about $500 plus court fees.
The regional transportation agency up north, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, wants stepped-up statewide law enforcement in the diamond lane. Not only that, it has requested that the legislature make such crackdowns state law by including language in another existing bill.
MTC Senior Public Information Officer and spokesman John Goodwin reported the stunning carpool lane violations to the local news Chanel KPIX 5: "It’s one in five [vehicles] in the morning, one in four in the afternoon are really vehicles that aren’t eligible to be in the carpool lane." Add that up, Bay Area carpool lane traffic consists of 20% violator cars in the morning and 25% during the p.m. rush hour. The same stats could be true for SoCal and that could be a reason why carpool lanes don't move...
I have to agree with MTC's proposed solution: Enforce the law until the violations stop. Write up those tickets...$500 per pop. If we get those violating vehicles out of the HOV lane, I wouldn't be surprised to see speed improvements to the point where they could comply with federal standards. If we are to guarantee speeds of 45 MPH or more in the carpool lane, let's get the cheaters out before we look into raising the occupancy requirement to 3.
One exception though in relation to the fine...If a driver is caught cheating beyond a reasonable doubt by putting a doll, mannequins or any other prop in a passenger seat in attempt to fool law enforcement, the mandatory fine should be $1,000. There's been some very clever tricks out there including one involving a cut-out of President Donald Trump's head and these tactics work until the driver is pulled over for an unrelated moving violation. There needs to be a means to stop this. I don't like advocating for punitive penalties like these, but it seems to be the only way to deter such bad behavior.
To be clear, there will be times where non-carpool drivers absolutely need an option to get somewhere quickly and many are willing to pay their way into a faster moving lane. To restate, The Transit Coalition generally supports congestion pricing within high occupancy vehicle infrastructure; thus if a carpool lane is moving along and has room for additional cars, let the solo drivers legally buy their way in at the market toll rate so as long the lane keeps moving. Carpools would continue to have priority and travel toll free without a transponder requirement.
But let's get the cheaters out of there once and for all.